Caesar Rodney seniors anxious to get season started

The Caesar Rodney basketball team goes through stretching exercises at practice on Tuesday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

CAMDEN — For almost as long as he can remember, Brycen Williams said this group has been friends.

When they were in third grade at Allen Frear Elementary, you’d find them playing basketball together during recess or in gym class.

“Those have been my guys since elementary school,” said Williams, now a senior at Caesar Rodney High. “So it’s really fun this year to see how we all came up together.

“We used to talk about playing basketball as we get older so it’s kind of cool to see this.”

Senior Brycen Williams shooting from the outside during practice Tuesday. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

To be sure, this isn’t a perfect situation right now for the nine seniors on this year’s CR boys’ basketball squad.

The conronavirus pandemic has delayed and condensed the regular season down to 14 games, all against Henlopen North teams. The Riders are slated to open the season on Tuesday with a 4:30 p.m. contest at Polytech.

CR also graduated seven seniors — including three starters — from a team that went 15-8 and reached the DIAA state quarterfinals last winter.

With so many seniors and the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings, second-year head coach Frank Victory knows that it’s especially important for this group to have this season played as normally as possible.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency for this group of seniors, trying to get it in,” said Victory. “I think it’s like that for everybody around the state.

“Those seniors are really pushing and I’m pushing to try to get them whatever we can this season. They practice like it, they’re working hard like it.”

– CR head coach Frank Victory going over practice schedule with his team. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Senior Jaelin Joyner admits that the pandemic has added a level of anxiousness to the season.

“We take it day by day,” he said. “We’ve had a couple practices where Coach has been like, ‘I’ve got some bad news. We can’t practice this day.’ Or, ‘I’ve got some bad news. The season was delayed. We start in January.’ It’s always something.”

“We do each practice 100 percent because we don’t know if it’s our last one ever,” said Williams. “We just practice like it’s our last, every time.”

But, despite the lack of returning starters, the Riders also believe in their chemistry and a system that doesn’t have them leaning on just a couple star players for offense. Victory isn’t afraid to play 10 or 11 players in a game.

Williams and Joyner both started as juniors. The 6-foot-6 Joyner was an honorable mention All-Henlopen North pick last season.

In the fall, CR went undefeated in a 10-game league in New Castle County.

“We wanted to take what we learned from last year, with some of the mistakes that we made,” said Williams. “I see that we’re correcting them already. That’s nice to know. We just want to keep building off last year and keep it rolling.”

“I feel like we have a great squad,” said Joyner. “All our guys know what they’re doing. Our coaches are great. All our guys know how to shoot, defend.”

Victory likes the fact that this will be the second season playing in his system for this group. It doesn’t hurt that last year worked out well for a team that also included a lot of first-year starters.

Of the Riders’ eight losses last season, six came against just three good teams — Dover, Smyrna and Appoquinimink. Against Appo in the state quarterfinals, CR trailed by only two in the third quarter before the Jaguars sprinted away to a 79-58 victory.

“It was difficult because we were in the game for three quarters and then we let it slip,” said Williams, the son of CR girls’ basketball coach Tameka Williams. “Momentum carried their way and we weren’t able to stop it.”

Besides Joyner and Williams, CR’s other seniors this winter are Deontre Cale, Ryan Carey, Tyshawn Gordon, Juan Jordan, Brandon Victory, Mason Williams and Tremere Woodlin. Eight of them saw action in the state tournament a year ago.

Like Williams, Joyner has fond memories of when they were youngsters playing basketball at recess.

“We all were very short,” Joyner said with a laugh. “The basketball looked a little sloppy. It was fun, though. Me, Brycen and Mason have been friends for a long time.

“It’s very crazy,” he said about being a senior. “It came fast.”